STA, 11 October 2021 - Slovenia will follow the recommendation of the national advisory committee on immunisation to use the Pfizer vaccine for those under 30 years old, Health Minister Janez Poklukar said on Monday. In general, the use of mRNA vaccines will be recommended over viral vector vaccines.
Viral vector vaccines can still be used for people with a contraindication to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines or at a special request.
The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) is to send the set of new recommendations to vaccination centres tomorrow, Poklukar said.
He said the national advisory committee on immunisation decided for the move due to "data on the possibility of a slightly higher risk of inflammation of the heart muscle or pericardium".
Bojana Beović, the infectious diseases specialist who heads the advisory committee on immunisation, said that the age limit had been set at 30 due to potential side effects after vaccination with the Moderna vaccine that occur not only in people younger than 18 but also those younger than 30.
Under-30s who received the first dose of Moderna may get Pfizer when getting their second jab, she added.
This comes as the use of the single-shot Janssen vaccine in Slovenia was suspended at the end of September after a 20-year-old woman died due to brain haemorrhaging and blood clots a fortnight after she received the shot.
The only other vector vaccine in use in Slovenia is AstraZeneca.
Beović and Poklukar stressed the new recommendations were to restore trust in vaccination.
Asked what would happen with the supplies of viral vector vaccines Slovenia currently has, the minister said that the leftover vaccines should be distributed to parts of the world where they were needed.
Asked about the 100,000 doses of the Janssen vaccine Slovenia ordered from Hungary, he said the order had been suspended.
Beović also noted today that following the approval by the European Medicines Agency, Slovenia too recommended the third shot of vaccines Pfizer and Moderna for those aged 65 or more.
"This is the doze that people with a very weak immune system response receive, as we assess that the vaccination with two doses has not been sufficient. This shot is administered 28 days after the second dose or later."
Previously, the third shot was recommended for those over 70, but now the age limit was lowered following the example of other European countries. "We startedPOLNOČ! with 70, as this is the age that significantly increases the risk of severe Covid-19 disease," Beović said.
But since the epidemiological situation in Slovenia is relatively bad, the third shot can also be administered to anyone over 18 if they wish so six months after they were fully immunised, she added.
As for the use of the vector vaccines AstraZeneca and Janssen, she said that the national advisory committee on immunisation had recommended the use of mRNA vaccines over viral vector vaccines in the early summer, but these recommendations had obviously not been followed.
Both vaccines, AstraZeneca as well as Janssen, provide very good protection against severe Covid-19 disease while not protecting against infection so much, which is important for preventing the spreading of the virus, she said.
Beović said that accusations that the recommendations were constantly being changed were unfounded. "It's important to understand that things change during an epidemic. New research, new reports are coming out, and the approach to both non-pharmaceutical measures and vaccination is changing as a result," she said.
Addressing today's Covid-19 briefing, Poklukar advised all people aged 65 and over to consult their GP about a possible referral for an outpatient Regeneron infusion treatment if they get a positive PCR test.
The decision to give such a recommendation was made because of the higher risk of a more severe course of Covid-19 in older people, he said, noting that Regeneron, a treatment based on monoclonal antibodies, had been available in Slovenia since mid-summer.
"It's used for early treatment of patients with confirmed infection and for protection after contact with an infected person in case there is a risk of severe Covid-19," he said.